Sightseeing in Cairo

28 Nov

Majority of party have decided to stay - another steamer leaving Alex. next Monday week, and took it easy today. Lindsay, Campbell and Busby go on Sunday, also Mr and Mrs Whitney. After breakfast, took a donkey to see the town, and found it much more European than I expected. The modern part is in style of Paris, with ... squares and boulevards radiating from them. Most of new roads are not filled up, having either open spaces or old houses in ruins. The number of houses in ruin is astonishing. The older parts of the town are narrow streets, and oriental in every particular, not excluding filth. Mosques very numerous, and some very large - public gardens - colonnade. In afternoon walked to Citadel, about 2 miles, where is grand Mosque of Mohammed Ali, built of marble, has three very high minarets. Its large court open, attached to high square building, covered by domes - finest I have seen - and close by is M.A.'s palace and Joseph's well. These are all on a hill: and from platform of Mosque is grand view of town and country, including river, and both sets of pyramids. Going again to see it, some fine evening. The sky here is not so as in Syria, and is hazy about sunset and also somewhat damp. The heat, taking the day through, is just nice, and comfortable for taking it easy.

A considerable variety of costume is seen: but not more than in most other Eastern towns; only here there are more Europeans, and business stirring. Lots of fine houses and carriages with footmen running ahead - 1, 2, or 3, according to style of personage.

Donkeys are good, clean, often with hair cut close in patterns according to taste. The saddles have a large prominence rising in front to stop one slipping over donkey's head. The boys are generally pretty clean and well-dressed, and, so far, not more clamorous than our own at New Brighton and elsewhere. The River runs by the town about ½ mile off. Lots of palm trees in all directions. I did not see any very large; but nothing looks particularly strange or striking, having seen everything in some shape or other before.

29 Nov.

Sunday again. Rose at 7, and got down just in time to see Lindsay, Busby and Campbell off to Station, they leaving us to-day.

Attended Service at New Hotel - no E. Church here yet - found it rather sleepy. Met Mr Glover and spoke to him. At my hotel H. Heap and wife are staying. Spoke to him: he is going up Nile. Sick men a little better, tho' none can leave their rooms. On arriving here received 3 letters. Found food to my taste. The home flavour is fine.

Nov. 30th

4 of us went in a carriage to see carpet procession start for Mecca. Got good stand near citadel. Great concourse, fine sight of the people. Turbans and dress of men and the white women's dresses look picturesque, a magnificent sight. Numerous companies of infantry and cavalry headed by bands marching past, and, in between, a canopy born on camels, containing sacred carpet, followed by a few head men on camels. Such a kind of caravan. 14 on camels, naked to the waist, and ½ doz. others, similarly mounted and more or less fantastically dressed.

Khedive and son passed in carriage, and a few other notabilities, decked out in heavy gold-faced coats. All the soldiers dressed in white clothes, something same style as our militia. Women made strange halloo noise to indicate pleasure or approval. Men generally very quiet, and, for a mob, well behaved. Europeans in carriage treated with great respect, natives in the way get stick without ceremony.

Afterwards, went on Citadel and enjoyed the view. Went into M. Ali's palace - for an eastern, neat and useful, then went into M.A. mosque - grand, roof formed out of 4 half domes (each of same rising off sq. bastions and columns and edge of hemisphere springing off wall) and a centre dome. Walls and columns and lower parts made from alabaster, and external wall case with same: but inside and out very much defaced by the lime bursting out in small places.

In afternoon saw Miss Wheatley's schools and the lady herself - much entertained by her conversation - and her assistant Mrs. Seelham. Bought from them doll for May. H, G and L were with me. She told us of Egyptian custom of "first-fruit days" - all eating onions or dates, or whatever fruit is just in on a particular day; also "fresh air day", the last reputed cold day of season, when all march out to take the air. Also the time the Nile is cut to overflow; all drink the muddy water, and ophthalmics walk across the Nile Bridge seven times to be cured, but owing to damp wet heat at the time usually get much worse from the experiment. Her Syrian lady assistants are very good-looking. School roomy and lofty; her house in same ground is commodious.

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